Most Christians struggle with their prayer life. For some, prayer is a crisis hotline…kinda like the Batphone. We pick it up and dial God’s 911 when we’re in trouble or need something from him. Others struggle finding the right “formula” to prayer so their prayers will get pushed to the front of the line for God’s holy consideration. Some feel like the key to getting their prayers answered is to only used the big reverent words in their prayer. Some feel like prayer is nothing more than a chore that’s required to do because you’re a Christian. Many struggle with praying out loud in a group of people. Do we kneel? Do we have to close our eyes? Sometimes we get so hung up on the “how to” that we forget that prayer is just a conversation with the God who created us and loves us.
How to pray isn’t our only struggle. If you’ve committed yourself to prayer, then you know that prayer can be hard work. We come to our prayer time, with our prayer lists and our carefully written out promises from the Bible next to each prayer and it doesn’t take long before we drift off to sleep or our mind begins to wonder. Then there is the part about waiting for God’s timing and trying to discern His will.
If prayer is something you feel inadequate in, you’re not alone. It’s very interesting that Jesus’ disciples worked alongside of Jesus and they only asked Him to teach them one thing. They didn’t ask for a crash course in feeding a large crowd with a boy’s small lunch. They didn’t sign up for Casting out Demons 101. They didn’t ask Jesus to teach them how to heal the sick. The only time we see them asking Jesus something was, “Lord, teach us to pray.” (Luke 11:1).
Do you ever stop to think what it must have been like to hear Jesus pray and then see miracles occur. The disciples wanted the same results in their prayers that Jesus got from His. Most of us would like to get results like Jesus did too. He loves for us to come to Him and ask Him to teach us something we are struggling with:
- Father, teach me to love you more.
- Father, teach me to praise you more.
- Father, teach me to thank you more.
- Father, teach me how to lead others to you.
- Father, teach me how to know your will.
- Father, teach me how to pray.
Jesus answered the disciples with a model for prayer. Probably one you’ve quoted (or at least heard) more than once in your life.
Our Father, who art in Heaven
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come, they will be done
On earth as it is in Heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread
And forgive us our trespasses
As we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation
But deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom and the power, and the glory
The beginning of the model starts off with praise and adoration to a Holy God, acknowledging Him our heavenly father and giving reverence to His name. Often, our prayers tick off the long list of things we need God to for us without ever just stopping and taking the time to pause and worship Him for who He is: A God who is worthy of our praises. A God who is omnipotent, creator, holy, just, powerful, excellent in all His ways, good, faithful, true. A God who’s mercies are new every morning and who’s love is unfailing. A God who relentlessly pursues us, even in the times when we want nothing to do with Him. He is righteous. Our rock of ages. He is our teacher. He keeps His promises. He is our Savior and our Shepherd. He is a strong tower to which we can run for comfort and protection. He is Jehovah. He is our helper and our healer and He is victorious. How can we not give Him praise that is due Him? We take Him for granted and treat Him more like a genie in a bottle that we rub and He pops out to grant us our wishes. And when we don’t get an answer on our time table, we declare that prayer doesn’t work for us and we….quit praying.
When we don’t get an answer to prayer, it might be that we do just need to wait for God’s perfect timing. Or it might be that we didn’t pray for His will and He has something better in mind than what we think we want. Maybe His “no” is because even though we think we know what we need, God sees so much more than we do and He knows that what we’re asking Him for is not for our good. Instead of getting upset, trust Him for His perfect timing, His perfect answer, and His perfect will. Because we know He will do nothing that will bring us harm, we can love Him even when we don’t understand His answer or feel that He is not answering. We can trust Him that He is working all things out for our good, as any loving Father would do.
Try beginning your prayer time with worshiping God before you start on that long list of prayer requests. It will change the way you see prayer.
Next, take time to earnestly seek God’s will regarding the things you are praying about. 1 John 5:14-15 says, “Now this is the confidence we have before Him: Whenever we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears whatever we ask, we know that we have what we have asked Him for.” We can’t know what God’s will is, if we do not take time to ask Him…so ask Him. Search His Word to determine His will. Ask a few close, trusted, Christian friends to pray with you to discover God’s will. He will let you know it.
Once you know His will, then you can take those promises from the Bible and begin to pray them back to Him. When you know His will, you can pray with confidence. When you know His will, you can move forward, even if it isn’t His will. There is something about seeking His will that if His will is different than ours, our will changes to match His as we begin to pray with a heart that truly wants His will.
Our prayer time also needs to include a time of confessing our sins to God and asking Him to forgive us. We also need to let go of the wrongs that people have done to us. How can we so righteously hold grudges against others when the King of Kings has lovingly forgiven us?
We can then pray for God’s protection over us as we go through the day and for his guidance. We can ask that Satan would not have any foothold into our lives. As we do, we can “put on the armor of God.” I like to do a visualization in my mind with each piece of armor as I pray. For example, “Lord, will put my helmet of salvation on my head, protecting my mind from thoughts and temptations that Satan may send my way.” I go through each piece of armor, acknowledge what it’s purpose is and ask God to put it on me.
Lastly, Jesus’ model prayer acknowledges the power and glory of God. He has the power to heal. He has the power to meet that financial need. He has the power to restore broken relationships. He has the power to bring a rebellious child back to Him. He has the power to help overcome an addiction. He has the power to help us get that job. He has the power to give us the strength to get through another day of an aging parent struggling with Alzheimer’s or cancer. He has the power to make that dream a reality. He has the power to enable you to do that impossible task He’s asked you to do. And when his power shows up, He is the one who will receive the glory.
There really is no “magic” method to prayer. When it comes down to it, prayer is nothing more than you communicating with a God who loves you. Just tell Him what’s on your heart, just as if you were talking with your best friend. He already knows anyway, so don’t worry about how eloquent your prayers are or being afraid of hurting His feelings. Just come as you are. Worship Him. Seek His will. Let your requests be known. Suit Up in your Armor. Acknowledge His glory. Trust that He has your very best ready for you.